7 Healthy Ways to Ring In The New Year in 2017Written by Kelsey Blackwell | Thursday, December 29th, 2016

healthy-new-year-2017Donning your finest threads and popping a bottle (or two) of champagne, is not the only way to bring in 2017. While we enjoy a festive party just as much as anyone, we also love stepping into a new year feeling refreshed, renewed and ready for anything. Overindulging and/or staying out well past bedtime (no matter how fancy your dance-floor footwork) is just no way to start the subsequent morning on solid ground. Still, hitting the lights well before the first firework isn’t the way to go either. You’ve got to live a little, right? Here are 7 healthy ways to have your cake, ahem, coconut, and eat it too this year.

 

  1. Host a vegan potluck. During the New Year people are often thinking about stepping up their health regimen. This can translate to more openness around considering dietary changes. Introduce friends to a healthier way of eating, and show them how satisfying and delicious going vegan can be. When the clock strikes midnight, celebrate with a kombucha toast to really get into the spirit.
  2. Dance the night away – sans booze. Did you know dancing can burn upwards of 350 calories an hour? Don’t let your slick moves go to waste by ingesting just as much as you’re burning. A glass of champagne has roughly 95 calories per 4 oz., which can quickly add up.
  3. Give yourself drink tickets. Only you know how much alcohol you can reasonably consume without feeling “off” the next day. Make a plan before the big day by giving yourself a drinking budget and sticking to it even at the height of festive revelry.
  4. Do a new class. How long has that intro capoeira class been on your to-do list? Hot Yoga? Blues Dancing? What’s more empowering than starting the New Year literally in the act of crossing off one of your resolutions?
  5. Celebrate like an 8 year-old. Rather than scouring for a sitter or dropping the kids off with grandparents, make them the center of your celebration. Create your own New Year’s ritual by lighting candles and sharing aspirations. They’ll likely be delighted, and you’ll enjoy a low-pressure evening. Board games? Check! Mac & Cheese? Check! Lights out by 10? Check!
  6. Volunteer. The holiday season can be a tough time for many. Help brighten another’s day, (and, perhaps find a warm internal do-gooder glow) by offering your time at a local shelter, food bank, senior home or anywhere else your heart is called. Being in service to others is the ultimate reward.
  7. Meditate. Breath in, breath out and find your Zen during an evening of meditation. Many meditation centers offer open sits to the general public on New Year’s Eve and Day. If the holiday season left you feeling scattered, anxious and exhausted, or you simply want to experience a real break during the holiday break, sitting for a full day in a quiet space may be just the medicine you need.

Vegan Holiday Recipes To “Wow” The Whole FamilyWritten by Kelsey Blackwell | Thursday, December 15th, 2016

Vegan Holiday Recipes

Preparing a holiday menu that the whole family will enjoy can be a challenge – especially when not everyone eats the same way. Perhaps your vegan household will be entertaining guests more accustomed to traditional holiday recipes? Maybe you’ll be the lone vegan at the table but would like to offer a dish that’s not quickly categorized as the healthy, vegan option i.e. “fibrous and flavorless”? Whatever your situation, adding crowd-pleasing vegan holiday recipes to your table is a worthy effort.

As you know, many dishes this time of year are laden with excess fat, oil and sugar. Our tendencies to overindulge during the holidays can lead to urgent and drastic measures to get back on track come the New Year. Conversely, a diet rich in plant-based foods can leave eaters feeling light, bright and energized. In fact, research shows that a vegan diet contributes to a host of health benefits including reducing the incidence of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and more – but we know we don’t need to convince you. These indulgent holiday recipes emphasize healthful ingredients AND (most importantly) flavor. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised if many don’t realize they’re entirely plant based.

Appetizers

Start the party with these festive appetizers that pack a tasty dose of heart-healthy nuts, fruits and seeds.

Avocado and Cranberry Hummus
Spicy Coconut Mango Popcorn
Sweet and Spicy Cranberries and Pumpkinseed Mix

 

The Main Attraction

We like to offer a spread of several main dishes to suit different palates. Give the classics a twist by adding a new salad or perhaps a few ethnic influences.

Mango Farro Pilaf
Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad
Plum and Sweet Potatoes Anna

Kale Apple Salad
Cranberry Spinach Salad
Double Baked Sweet Potato & Toasted Coconut

Dried Cranberry and Roasted Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad

 

Dessert

You’re sure to leave a lasting impression on your guests with coconut oil, fair trade cacao and organic dried fruit.

Dessert Tamales with Coconut Sauce
Goji Berry Truffles
Forbidden Black Rice Pudding
Raw Truffle Balls
Chocolate Dipped Candied Apricots

Make your holiday feast a snap with these time-saving tipsWritten by Susan Thanavaro | Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

No one likes spending extra time in the kitchen toiling away behind the stove or scrubbing mountains of dirty dishes. But during the holidays when friends and family take over the house, such activities may seem unavoidable. We understand since we spend plenty of time in the kitchen all year long developing recipes featuring our organic fruit. Just because a dish looks like it takes hours doesn’t mean it actually should. From our test kitchen to yours, use these tips to streamline meal prep and cleanup and spend more time doing what your really want to do this holiday season.

When you’re cooking …

1. Start with mise en place. This French term literally translates to “putting in place.” Prepare your  ingredients before you begin cooking. That means chopping, pulling out spices and of course designating counter space. Not only is this a great way to save time while cooking but it also makes the process much less stressful.

2.  Keep a sink of soapy water. You may not have time to clean as you go, so let a sink of soapy water do the heavy lifting for you. Dishwasher loading becomes a snap.

3.  Put away your groceries. If you’re the one cooking, takeover unloading groceries.  This is the best way to ensure you know where everything is as you prepare for mise en place. It’s no fun knowing you bought something but having no idea where it is. We’ve been there.

4.  Keep valuable utensils handy. Next to the stove fill a mason jar with the tools you most often use like spatulas, tongs, wooden spoons and rubber scrapers.

5.  Sharpen your knife.  Sharp knives are safer and they work much better. Keep a knife sharpener on hand and use it often.

 

Easier ingredient prep …
These commonly used ingredients are a snap to prepare with these tips from the pros.

* For easy whip cream, shake ingredients in a cool mason jar.

* Slice avocadoes in the skin to make cubes. It makes them even easier to mash into guacamole.

* Put a dish towel or damp paper towel under your cutting board to keep it from slipping.

* Grate frozen butter straight into flour when make pastry dough for even distribution.

* Instantly core a head of iceberg lettuce by slamming it down on a cutting board.

* Add a pinch of baking soda to onions to caramelize them in half the time.

* To keep cheese from sticking to your grater, coat it with a nonstick spray.

* To get more juice out of lemons and limes microwave them for a few seconds.

* For perfect potato wedges, use an apple slicer.

Do you have any go-to kitchen time savers that you rely on? We’d love to give them a try. Leave a comment below.

5 better-for you holiday recipe substitutionsWritten by Susan Thanavaro | Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

Yes, the holidays are all about enjoyment and celebration, but who says sneaking in a surprise serving of fiber, vitamins and iron can’t be part of that equation? Use these tips to deliver flavorful favorites with a surprise hit of added nutrition. Don’t worry this holiday secret is safe with us.

Instead of Mayonnaise
Try: Mashed Avocado 
In addition to being high in cholesterol, mayonnaise is often made with genetically modified canola oil. The verdict is still out on how this scientifically adulterated crop is impacting our health. The best solution? Stay away. Avocado offers the same creamy consistency with the added benefit of also delivering potassium, calcium and fiber. Try it on sandwiches.

Instead of Oil
Try: Pureed Pumpkin 
The easiest way to health up holiday quick breads and cookies? Ditch the oil for pureed pumpkin. We’re not sure how the squash does it, but a one-to-one substitution results in tender baked goods with a fraction of the fat. Plus, pumpkin is rich in vitamins A, C and fiber. Be sure to look for unsweetened pumpkin to avoid added sugar.

Instead of White Sugar 
Try: Pureed dried dates
We all know white sugar isn’t great s but sometimes nothing else will do, right? Actually, there are plenty of healthful options that deliver the sweet without the guilt. For a lower glycemic load try agave or stevia. Our favorite natural sweetener comes straight from nature and offers fiber and trace minerals.  Make date sugar by pureeing dried fruit at home.

Instead of Buttermilk
Try: 1 tbsp. lemon juice in dairy free milk (let sit 5 mins) 
Perhaps you’ve made your own buttermilk using milk and lemon juice, but did you know that strategy works just as well with alternative dairy options? Consider this trick to serve lactose intolerant and/or vegan eaters. Dairy-free buttermilk is great in salad dressings, pancakes and quick breads.

Instead of Breadcrumbs 
Try: Coconut flour 
Deliver the crunch without the gluten by using roasted coconut flour in place of breadcrumbs. By doing so you replace empty calories with protein, fiber and vitamin C. Whew knew? Even better, you’ve given  gluten-free and Paleo dinner guests a great recipe trick.

Remember, we have a bunch of healthy holiday-ready recipes on our site. And, you can find more healthy substitutions and recipes from our health partner Fruits and Veggie More Matters. 

10 better-for-you foodie gifts from our kitchen to yoursWritten by Susan Thanavaro | Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

During the holidays does your kitchen become a dessert factory pumping out sugar cookies, gingerbread and truffles to ring in the season? This year, we’re looking forward to taking a healthier approach by offering overindulged, stressed family and friends a treat they truly won’t regret eating. Consider sharing these easy, healthy foodie gifts to do the same.

Apricot and Fig Preserves 
This vibrant jar of apricot jam is as beautiful to look at as it is tasty to eat.  Made essentially with just fruit, water and lemon juice, it’s also completely sugar free. Try other Made In Nature dried organic fruit to enjoy the best of the season year round.

Granola with Cranberries & Raisins
Share the gift of homemade granola. Crisp, flavorful and full of your favorite nuts, berries and seeds, once anyone’s tried the real deal it’s tough to go back to the store-bought stuff. Be sure to include the recipe, and if you’re feeling creative suggestions for other nut berry combinations like dried mangoes with cashews or apples with extra cinnamon. Make a big batch and store leftovers in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Raw Truffle Balls 
These elegant truffles make a lovely dessert but are healthy enough to also enjoy while snowshoeing or even for breakfast. Made with just dried fruit, nuts, unsweetened cocoa powder and a touch of orange juice, friends won’t believe they’re sugar free and high in fiber.  Even better, they’re also a snap to prepare.

Sweet and Spicy Cranberries and Pumpkinseed Mix 
We like to keep this sweet and spicy mix on hand when we have company in town. The healthful snack is filling since it’s rich in fiber and simultaneously satisfies both sweet and salty cravings. Don’t be surprised when friends and family ask for the recipe.

Honey Date Loaf 
Give banana bread a break with this Honey Date Loaf which is perfect for the holidays. Made with naturally sweet organic Deglet Noor Dates it only used 1/4 cup of honey and 1/2 cup brown sugar for sweetness. Cinnamon and nutmeg add a seasonal touch.

Pineapple Cranberry Apple Granola Bars
Your friends will thank you for sharing this easy and healthy grab n’ go breakfast/snack option. Making your granola bars may seem challenging but this recipe is truly a snap with only a handful of on-hand ingredients. Simply line a baking dish with parchment paper, bake, cut and serve. Voila!

Pineapple Coconut Cookies 
Macaroons meet pineapple upside down cake, in these tender cookies. Grandparents will appreciate your update on the classic dessert (dot with maraschino cherries if you’re feeling cheeky). We love the rich coconut flavor and chunks of sweet pineapple.

Cranberry Mole 
Mole may not be on your Christmas menu, but south of the border the dish is a holiday classic. Traditionally a rich blend of chilies and chocolate, during Christmas and Lent in Central Mexico it’s often made with romeritos, a wild Mexican shrub similar to rosemary, and served with dried shrimp cakes. Try our holiday mole version which features dried cranberries. Deliver in small mason jars with a suggestion to try it alongside a Christmas turkey or other poultry.

Cranberry Oatmeal and White Chocolate Cookies
Whole wheat flour and oats, peppered with sugar-free organic cranberries update this classic cookie recipe with a nutritional edge. Don’t stop there though, consider mixing in chopped nuts for a portion of the white chocolate chips.

Chocolate Dipped Candied Apricots 
Naturally delectable dried apricots become even more of a treat when dipped in delicious dark chocolate and your favorite heart-healthy nuts or seeds. Try a variety of crunchy toppings such as crushed pistachios, macadamia nuts, cashews or even colorful sprinkles. Deliver in a parchment paper lined boxed.

3 tips to give in without guilt during the holidaysWritten by Susan Thanavaro | Thursday, November 14th, 2013

Every holiday season you vow this will be the year you won’t blow your diet. You pass on the buttered rolls, eggnog, sugar cookies dripping with buttercream icing, heck, you even said no to the candied yams. Then something comes around you just can’t resist, maybe it’s a slice of pecan pie with a dollop of  whipped cream or a warm, cheesy crab dip.  You allow yourself a bite. Then, before you know it, you’re diving in with reckless abandon, focusing on each mouthful to keep from looking at the fact that you’ve just blown it completely. You circle back to the sugar cookies, toss in some cheese straws just because you can and by the end of your rampage all that’s left is self loathing and guilt which you’d also eat if you could. You vow to get back on track tomorrow, but your willpower is diminished. Five pounds later you’re wondering how the heck did this happen?

Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. Expecting to completely pass on all the delights thrust upon you during the holiday season is a truly Herculean task. What if this year you took a different approach? You could give in and pass on extra pounds (and side of regret) that typically accompanies the most forbidden foods. How? Here are a few tips we plan to use to have our cake and eat it too this holiday season.

Just say, yes! Don’t ignore the dip, cake, pie, cookies, rolls that are calling your name. They see you, you see them, and playing games will only make you long for them more. Instead, plan to indulge. That’s right. Make giving in part of your diet. When allowing yourself a treat is part of your plan, you’re less likely to binge. You’re also more likely to be more conscious of the foods you consume during the day to allow for the special treats you’ll eat later on.

Eat a meal, before the meal. Going to a holiday party where there’s sure to be lots of tempting appetizers and desserts? Plan ahead by eating a healthy meal rich in protein and fiber before you go. While you’re at the event, indulge in whatever you like. Because you’re not starving, you’re likely to be more discerning about what you actually put on your plate. You’ll also eat less.

Savor the flavor. Practice mindful eating. When you pick up that truffle don’t let feelings of guilt cloud your enjoyment. Savor each bite. Be present as you enjoy it. How does it smell? How does it feel on your tongue? What flavors do you taste? Research shows the first bite of anything is often the most enjoyable. Enjoy a taste and move on.